If you are shopping for Japanese cosmetics you can’t find in the US or Europe, check out Lunasol. Lunasol is sold in department stores across Japan.
Lunasol is a premium Japanese cosmetics and skincare brand made by Kanebo and sold primarily in Japan, Korea, China and southeast Asia. It is best known for the fine quality of its powders (pressed and loose powder, blush, eye shadow) and its foundation. Based on the advice of two beauty bloggers (A Touch of Blusher and My Women Stuff) who review extensively Asian makeup and skin care products, I decided to give Lunasol a try. I went to the Isetan department store in Shinjuku (Tokyo) to try Lunasol’s products.
When you go to a cosmetics counter in Japan, expect the full treatment. The sales woman will sit you down, place a protective cover over your clothing and spend time with you to make sure you get the right product and the right colour. Here is my review of the Lunasol products I ended up buying at Isetan:
(1) Lunasol control base: I bought the Lunasol Control Base in 02 Clear because I have normal to oily combination skin and I need a base makeup (also called “primer” in the US and Europe) to hide large pores and provide a base for the foundation to adhere to, especially in a humid climate. Lunasol base makeup has sunscreen SPF 27 PA++. It is a light creamy yellow liquid that blends easily into the skin and provides a good base for foundation and powder; it covers the large pores on my nose and cheeks very well. It dries down to a lovely finish — not too dry or too moist. Within a few seconds, I can apply foundation.
(2) Lunasol Skin Modeling Liquid Foundation: This is Lunasol’s foundation for normal to oily skin and claims to have 55 percent water. It has SPF 21 PA++ sunscreen. The Skin Modeling Liquid Foundation gives a sheer to medium finish. Compared to my Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua foundation, Lunasol skin modeling liquid foundation is more sheer and glowy (not as powdery as Chanel’s) but it does a fine job controlling oil. The finish is absolutely gorgeous especially when topped with Lunasol’s pressed powder. When I sat down at the Lunasol counter to get tested for foundation colour, the sales woman pressed what looked like a sci-fi ray gun to my cheek and my neck and showed me, on the computer screen, my ideal foundation shade. Not surprisingly, the computer suggested that I get the darkest shade: OC04 (ochre 04). As it turns out, it is the perfect shade for me and after wearing it for several days, it did withstand the Tokyo humidity (although I did wear it over the control base). Lunasol has another foundation for drier skin called the Skin Modeling Water Cream foundation.
**Side note about Japanese foundation shades: I cannot understand why Japanese cosmetic companies offer very few foundation shades, mostly for very fair skin. Lunasol in Japan sells only four ochre (OC) shades (somewhat yellow-based) and two yellow-ochre (YO) (very yellow-based) shades. Other Japanese companies are not any better. They assume that everyone in Japan has very fair skin, but after having traveled around Japan for a month this year and a month last year, I can tell you that there are many Japanese women who are even darker than me (and I’m not that dark — I am half Chinese, half Filipino). I don’t bake myself in the sun, I wear hats and SPF 50 sunscreen everyday, but I am at the end of the colour spectrum here. I spoke to a Japanese sales woman at a department store in Ginza who was selling makeup brushes and she looked Malaysian-Chinese (she was a shade or two darker than me). I asked her where she buys her foundation and she said she can’t find any foundation shades among the Japanese cosmetic companies so she uses MAC (the Estee Lauder owned company that offers dozens of shades of foundation from lightest to darkest). Another thing: there are a lot of Thai, Chinese, Filipino, Indonesian, and Singaporean tourists in Japan buying Japanese cosmetics. If there were more foundation shades available for them, the Japanese makeup industry could see higher revenues.
(3) Lunasol micro-finish pressed powder N (02 natural beige): This is Lunasol’s pressed powder in a natural beige colour (meaning, a very light beige) and it consists of an extremely finely milled powder that gives the skin a matte finish. If you prefer a translucent powder, get 01. I opted for the 02 natural beige (shown below) because 01 translucent made my skin look a bit too pale. You can buy the loose powder, but I like pressed powders because I travel so much and pressed powders are more convenient for people who travel a lot. I would say that the Lunasol powder is comparable to Shiseido translucent powder, except Shiseido does not have a beige colour with the same finely milled quality. Result: an absolutely beautiful natural glow that lasts for many hours. Lunasol has lived up to its reputation as one of the best powder makeup companies in the world, if not the best.
**Side note about Japanese pressed powder and blush powder: In Japan, you buy the compact and powder pan separately. Shiseido does this as well even in Western countries. The advantage is that you just buy a refill when your powder is finished. The compacts sold in Japan are really beautiful, whether it’s a premium brand like Lunasol or a drugstore brand like Shiseido Maquillage. The prices are very reasonable and in some cases, you get the choose the kind of compact you want to carry around.
(4) Lunasol Coloring Cheeks N in 05 Soft Rose: I got one of the shades from the N powder blush line instead of the Coloring Cheeks Glow (which is the other Lunasol blush line) because it provides an ethereal bright glow to the cheeks without the glitter. There are 3 colors in the pan: a large rose shade and two smaller shades to complement it. The Lunasol sales woman instructed me to swipe my blush brush up and down across the shades and apply the powder in rounded strokes around my cheeks.
I found the Coloring Cheeks Glow to have a bit too much shimmer for my taste. If you are very young and have no wrinkles when you smile, you can get away with the Glow line.
Lunasol has 5 shades in the Coloring Cheeks N line: 01 Light Pink, 02 Light Coral, 03 Soft Beige Red, 04 Medium Beige and 05 Soft Rose. Because I already have a Shiseido blush in a coral-like shade, I opted for the Soft Rose which is not too pink for my skin tone. This is the best blush powder I have ever owned, much better than Shiseido or Clarins or MAC. The powder is so finely milled and seems to have been infused with some secret glow that your cheeks look naturally flushed. The powder does not sink into lines or pores.
(5) Lunasol Under Eyes concealer in 02 Dark Beige: Lunasol under eye concealer is a winner in every way. Unlike other concealers I have tried, it does not sink into the fine lines under my eyes and it dries down quickly (does not stay sticky) to a lovely fresh finish that effectively hides the dark circles under my eyes. The concealer comes in 5 shades.
**A few more tips about makeup and skincare shopping in Japan:
- There are 3 categories in Japanese makeup and skincare: Base Makeup (makeup base or primer, foundation, face powder and concealer), Point Makeup (eye shadow, eyebrow pencils/powder, blush, eye pencils, lip colour) and Skin Care.
- Eye shadows in Japanese cosmetic lines are invariably very sparkly and shimmery. This means if you are over 40 and have any lines at all, they will emphasize those lines and make you look older. I tried Pola, Lunasol, Suqqu, Cle de Peau, Maquillage, Three, Cosme Decorte, etc. and none of them had anything that I could wear. Shiseido does have a better selection but even there, you need to be careful. I did not buy any of Lunasol’s stunningly beautiful eye shadows because of the amount of shimmer. If I were 20 years old again, I would collect them. The Lunasol eye shadows are just exquisite but I can’t wear them.
- All the main cosmetics manufacturers — Kanebo, Shiseido, KAO — have drugstore brands that are quite amazing and cost much less than their department store brands. Drugstores in Japan do NOT look anything like Walgreens, Duane Reade, CVS, or French/Dutch/German drugstores. There are pharmacies (which sell only prescription drugs) and there are “drugstores” which sell soap, toothpaste, baby products, shampoo and the less expensive cosmetics lines such as Maquillage (Shiseido), KAO Sofina, Benefique (Shiseido), Coffret d’Or (Kanebo) and more. I bought a Maquillage Powdery UV foundation from one of these drugstores in Kyoto three weeks ago and it was a truly fantastic product: powder foundation that withstood a humid Kyoto climate, covered my pores, provided good sun protection and gorgeous finish that looked natural. The “drugstores” look like a chaotic jumble of stuff: there are thousands of items crammed into the tiniest of shops and it’s bewildering to try to find anything in there. But rest assured if you ask the sales person for what you want (Shiseido Maquillage, for instance), they will lead you to the product shelf.
- Natural/organic cosmetics: a relatively new phenomenon in Japan which is late to the game when it comes to natural/organic skincare and cosmetics, there is one Japanese company called Three which has a gorgeous shop, spa and cafe-restaurant in Aoyama (near Omotesando) in Tokyo. Three Cosmetics Skincare reminds me of Trilogy (the New Zealand brand). Its skin care and makeup lines contain plant-derived ingredients unlike other Japanese brands that have mostly synthetic ingredients.
- TAX FREE for cosmetics (read this carefully): Beginning 1 October 2014, cosmetics and skin care products in Japan qualify for tax-free refunds for tourists. You must bring your passport to the department store AND you have to spend at least 10,000 yen in one day at that store. Some stores such as Isetan charge a 1 percent “handling” fee, which is a bit like cheating, but others do not. Some stores like Matsuya in Ginza require that you spend at least 50,000 yen in cosmetics (within your 10,000 yen threshold for the day) to qualify for the tax-free refund. You get it right in the store at the tax-refund counter usually in the basement or one of the upper floors.
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